Explaining Post-Jesus Christianity to Liberals

Slightly Revised edition

post-jesus-bus

by Rev. Kellie Banter, preacher to the 1%.

(Republican Church and its enforcer Donald Trump. Bible by Ayn Rand)

Chapter One: Blessed Are the Rich, for They Inherited the Earth

Jesus insisted that the poor would inherit the earth.  He was wrong.  The rich have inherited the earth. It is all theirs. They can chew it up and spit it out if they want, as they do. Let’s just call it a bad financial forecast.

I’m not a rich person right now, but The American Dream may still hit me a home run. In the meantime, I am preparing the ground for my arrival in the Promised Land. For example, I’ll vote with Post-Jesus Christians (aka Republicans) on their budget plan once they get one. The only people who would increase taxes of rich people are those who have given up  hope of ever becoming a rich person.  That attitude is both un-American and communistic.

Chapter Two: The Donald Trumps of Their Era

On one web forum, I made the mistake of referring to the twelve disciples as “poor fishermen.” Almost before I could click “send,” I got a response from a student of the Bible: “The twelve disciples were the Donald Trumps of their time.” Apparently, they each owned three houses and had many servants. Who knew? This revelation turned the New Testament right-side up for me.

When Jesus said he would make the twelve apostles fishers of men, they thought he was letting them in on a new mortgage lending scheme. Imagine their horror when he started antagonizing potential customers by insulting them, and trashing competitors‘ tables outside the Temple. Some people just can’t take a little free market competition.

The Apostles kept trying to show Jesus the error of his ways.  He got impatient with them, but they never lost patience with him. Until the inevitable happened.

They weren’t surprised when he got the death penalty; that’s where people like him end up. You didn’t see them holding signs, “Crucifixion is Murder!” or “Torture is Against God’s Law!”  Everyone knows the best way to avoid the death penalty is to get rich. Jesus was not much of a role model in this regard.

Chapter 3:  All Kinds of Sickness that You Clearly Deserve

(Matthew 4:23) “And Jesus went about all Galilee… preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”

Tell me this: if Jesus could actually heal the sick, why is there any sickness left?  He told his followers to go heal the sick. They didn’t have much luck, so they invented health insurance.

Jesus told us we must heal the sick, the poor, the hungry, no matter who they are… a kind of Judean Obamacare.  No profit there. Repeal that.

I used to think that the Kingdom of God was a  land filled with all kinds of people from all over the world and their pets, laughing and eating and sharing desserts.  That was before Ron Paul painted a new picture for me. At a past Republican debate, he preached the new Post-Jesus Christianity: the Kingdom of God is where we step over people who are in comas because they were too stupid to get health insurance.  After all, fair’s fair and freedom is freedom.  He didn’t actually call it Post-Jesus Christianity, but those who have ears shall hear.

Next month: Blessed Are the War-Makers for They Get the Spoils

 

 

 

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An Embarrassing Hero

I saw Dorothy Day at a Mass one afternoon. She sat in a front pew with her head bowed in prayer. I had the same contradictory reaction to her that I do now, forty years later.

Her uncompromising belief in pacifism inspired everyone I worked with in the Catholic Left, activists who worked for the end of the American War in Vietnam, and for a shift in America’s attitude toward war. She is best known for her work with desperately poor people, opening Houses of Hospitality to feed and house the most marginalized in Depression America, and after. She constantly confronted the Catholic hierarchy in their neglect of the Christian message of social justice. Her stand for pacifism was absolute. Christians, she said, had no other choice.

That afternoon, what I saw in her bowed head was a piety and submission to authority that made me cringe. She once said that if the Cardinal told her to stop printing her Catholic Worker newspaper, she’d shut it down immediately. The idea of totally obedient and will-less devotion to a religious authority is a destructive medieval hold-over. It is an infantile approach to church. She was devoted to that obedience.

However, to categorize Dorothy Day as totally obedient or will-less or infantile verges on the ridiculous, and counter to everything we know about her life. So Dorothy Day, enigma, paradox, embarrassing hero, haunts my spiritual life.

This year, when a pastor was arrested for feeding homeless people outdoors in Fort Lauderdale, I swear I could see her right there. She goes to Palestine; she’s in jail for acts of social justice. She is working at the Food Pantry. She is insulating walls to protect the creation she loved. She is striking with fast-food workers for a living wage. She is an unfailing guide for social justice.

But, a spiritual guide? Yes: “How can you not believe in God when there are so many beautiful things?” she asked her lover. Her beliefs about the sanctity of voluntary suffering? No. Her rigidity about women’s roles and about divorce? No. Her humbleness before church authority? No. Her humbleness before God? Yes.

I gave up this year. The only way to deal with a ghost is to face her. I’m reading what she wrote and what is written about her. I’m sitting next to her before God. The result: her paradox is becoming more pronounced – not what I was hoping for. Now the paradoxes in my own soul are clearer to me. Wandering in the celtic knot of Dorothy’s life is making me recognize the knot of my own life. Celtic knots are mysterious and beautiful, however unsettling to live with.

I Hope They Think I Was Racist

My father, unusually intelligent in most things, thought that suburban living was the pinnacle of civilization, the culmination of centuries of evolution. Though I argued with him, I understood his point of view. My parents and their parents struggled to be able to live in a safe, secure, beautiful place. Leaving behind close family and neighbors, all the things they loved about living in Manhattan, was worth it. In a world with limited knowledge of other cultures, they could not compare Huntington, Connecticut to very many places.

We tend to think that we are the pinnacle of evolution, even more so when it comes to our opinions and attitudes. I hope that when my niece Kate’s grandchildren hear about Aunt Alice, who lived back in 2011, they are SHOCKED by my attitudes.

She lived in a HOUSE when people were sleeping on the street?!”

“She POINTED at Latino people in her classes? How could she insult people that way?”

“She handed a gift to a Thai person with ONE HAND? How racist is that?”

“She lived in a town WITHOUT ONE African-American? Who did she think she was?”

And I feel wonderful relief knowing that they will be upset by things I cannot even imagine now. After they voice their outrage about the attitudes of so-called “good” people in 2011, I hope that Kate takes them to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Connecticut. She’s the one who wrote that racist book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly in 1852.  A woman organized a church trip to Stowe’s house in Connecticut as a way of thinking about Black History Month. Stowe has taken an unfair hit on racism. The fictional Uncle Tom is a different, more complex man than the political image of an “Uncle Tom.” However, there is no denying that reading the 1852 book in 2011 is a different experience.

Stowe revolutionized white people’s view of slavery and African-Americans forever. Certainly not every white person is convinced, but enough to bring U.S. slavery to an end much sooner.

In 1972, my grandmother was shocked that our white neighbor married a man who was black. She was older and living with us in Huntington. She’d gone as far as fourth grade in Ireland before emigrating and started work as a nanny around 1912. Now that she was older and ill, she got to read and rest. She spent hours by the front window, reading, thinking, telling stories, mostly thinking. The only house in sight was across the street where the shocking couple came and went to work, went shopping, and worked in the yard. I was reading in the living room one day when she said, “I guess it’s all right, as long as he treats her right.” It took me a moment to realize who she was talking about. I consider that moment an important milestone in the evolution of race relations. If she could change her view of the world sitting at a window, watching, thinking, wondering, I’m sure I can also. Maybe I can knock off some of the unconscious attitudes I have from that future list of my niece’s grandchildren.

Post-Jesus Christianity

I was a Goldwater Republicans in my very early days. So early that I voted for him in eighth grade elections.  Lyndon B. Johnson easily captured the St. Anthony of Padua Grammar School vote, but I believed in Goldwater conservatism. Then began the slippery slope to liberalism. One thing is true of Catholic schools, they do invest their students with social conscience. It’s that whole Body-of-Christ thing.  All men are brothers. Love your neighbor. Clearly, that is just one baby step away from Communism. Kind of a “Communism with God.” Young and innocent, I swallowed it whole in high school.

In college I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  It was the most narcissistic, vile novel I’d ever read. I took another giant step away from conservatism.

Now in my sixties, I have come full circle, leaving far behind the murky mire of “progressive thinking.” In summary: Jesus was great at kicking off a big movement. If you put aside Judaism for a moment, you could say he started a whole new religion. But we have evolved since then.  The world is not the same; adjustments must be made.  It is time for a Post-Jesus Christianity.

Chapter One: Blessed Are the Rich, for They Inherited the Earth

            Jesus insisted that the poor would inherit the earth.  He was wrong.  The rich have inherited the earth. It is all theirs. They can chew it up and spit it out if they want, as they do. Let’s just call it a bad financial forecast.

            I’m not a rich person right now, but I may become one anytime now. The American Dream may still hit me a home run. In the meantime, I am preparing the ground for my arrival in the Promised Land. For example, I’ll vote with Post-Jesus Christians (aka Republicans) on their budget plan once they get one. The only people who would increase taxes of rich people are those who have given up  hope of ever becoming a rich person.  That attitude is both un-American and communistic.

Chapter Two: The Donald Trumps of Their Era

            On one web forum, I made the mistake of referring to the twelve disciples as “poor fishermen.” Almost before I could click “send,” I got a response from a student of the Bible: “The twelve disciples were the Donald Trumps of their time.” Apparently, they each owned three houses and had many servants. Who knew? This revelation turned the New Testament right-side up for me. 

            When Jesus said he would make the twelve apostles fishers of men, they thought he was letting them in on a new mortgage lending scheme. Imagine their horror when he started antagonizing potential customers by insulting them, and trashing competitors‘ tables outside the Temple. Some people just can’t take a little free market competition. The Apostles kept trying to show Jesus the error of his ways.  He got impatient with them, but they never lost patience with him. Until the inevitable happened. They weren’t surprised when he got the death penalty; that’s where people like him end up. You didn’t see them holding signs, “Crucifixion is Murder!” or “Torture is Against God’s Law!”  Everyone knows the best way to avoid the death penalty is to get rich. Jesus was not much of a role model in this regard.           

Chapter 3:  All Kinds of Sickness that You Clearly Deserve

(Matthew 4:23) “And Jesus went about all Galilee… preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”

            Tell me this: if Jesus could actually heal the sick, why is there any sickness left?  He told his followers to go heal the sick. They didn’t have much luck, so they invented health insurance.

 Jesus told us we must heal the sick, the poor, the hungry, no matter who they are… a Judean Obamacare.  I used to think that the Kingdom of God was a  land filled with all kinds of people from all over the world and their pets, laughing and eating and sharing desserts.  That was before Ron Paul painted a new picture for me. At a Republican debate, he preached the new Post-Jesus Christianity: the Kingdom of God is where we step over people who are in comas because they were too stupid to get health insurance.  After all, fair’s fair and freedom is freedom.  He didn’t actually call it Post-Jesus Christianity, but those who have ears shall hear.

            [Aside: during the Republican debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer mentioned paying $200 -$300 a month for health insurance. Can anyone get me the website for that company? What a deal!]

            Next month: Blessed Are the War-Makers for They Get the Spoils

Rev. Kellie Banter, minister to the future 1%

 

 

 

 

The New Color-Coded Bibles: Just for You!

In “The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare’s  Antonio warns us, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”  That puts reading the Bible into the danger zone. The Catholic Church of my youth took the warning seriously and simply forbade the faithful from reading it. (I suspect because there is too much sex.) The Bible is a thick, complicated and contradictory book, on occasion offering questionable advice, i.e. wives should be subject to their husbands.

Thanks to the Avery Dennison Corporation, inventor of “Hi-Liter”, we are now in the age of the “highlighted Bible.”  No need to struggle with all those contradictions, just don’t highlight them.

 We can now choose a Bible highlighted by people we agree with and skip all those inconvenient passages. We do not have to read or wrestle with anything we don’t like, thank God.

For instance, I gravitated toward The Poverty and Justice Bible.  On the cover is the face of a child and a broken chain. Here’s what the marketing says:

poverty bibblThe publishers of the Poverty and Justice Bible went looking and highlighted almost 3,000 verses in the scriptures to show that God has something to say about injustice and oppression. With bright orange highlighting, a quick glance is all you need to see that God cares about the poor a lot.”

Good thing the highlighting is bright orange, I might have missed them. And I only need to commit to a quick glance to convince myself that God cares about the poor “a lot.”

 I flipped through The Green Bible. It is ecologically correct, and here is the reason to buy it:

green-bible “The Green Bible will equip and encourage people to see God’s vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth.”

  Guess what color ink for the favored passages?

 Three thousand references for poverty and justice and only one thousand for the earth. Poverty wins  by two thousand! Love loses; heaven comes in last.                  

amer patriots My personal favorite is The American Patriot’s Bible. It has the most eye-catching and colorful cover: the American flag waving, the founding fathers signing something, the Washington Monument. The publishers of this Bible are the most ambitious of all. This one proves that the Bible is actually the story of America. This one isn’t actually highlighted. In columns next to the text, the story of America is told, beginning with Adam.

“The American Patriot’s Bible reveals how God has been and will continue to be a part of this great nation.”   -Ralph Reed

This helpful trend is not limited to print. According some websites, Adam was white. Not satisfied that God was clear enough on this point, someone added a passage to Genesis stating that Adam was indeed white.  Unfortunately, highlighting in white makes the words invisible, so it may not make it to the bookshelves.

            Our town had a littering problem recently. Supremely white people threw what is politely called literature  on lawns. Those anti-Semites really know how to make a mess. My English-language classes were reading two books at the time: a  biography of Anne Frank and one about Rosa Parks.  In my head that week, anger and hope wrestled with each other, like they do in the Bible.

This may catch on. I like the idea of Moby Dick highlighted. With a few swipes of a blue highlighter, we could have The Fisherman’s Moby Dick: a short guide to catching the big one.  The possibilities are endless.

Right now I can see Dorothy Day and Jerry Falwell fighting over a highlighter in the afterlife.  Whichever one wins gets into heaven.

             

Atheists Unite Against God

 This April American Atheists will hold a convention in Des Moines.  These may be the first conventions in history for people who all don’t believe in the same thing.  I don’t believe in ghosts.  What would conversations be like at the American Ghost Disbelievers’ convention?

            Alice: “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

            Disbeliever: “Me neither.”

            Alice: “Nobody can make me believe in ghosts.”

            Disbeliever: “Me neither.”

            Alice: “Wanna go get a burger?

             Disbeliever: “Sure.”

 In 1970 I wore a button that said, “Anarchists Unite!” This convention has a similar feel to it. Constitutional questions of separation of church and the right of public schools to teach “intelligent design” are complex, certainly deserving conventions. But a large group of people who all don’t believe something for different reasons? Don’t get me wrong; anyone can have a convention about anything. I just don’t get it. So I took a look at the convention website.

Speaker Kathleen Johnson is Military Director for American Atheists.  Okay, I am definitely not going to this convention.  

Tom Flynn will give his new speech, “The Trouble with Easter.” Oddly enough, I’ve heard sermons on that very topic.

And of course Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, will be speaking, if his health permits. He is described as “One of the ‘Four Horsemen’ of atheism.”  That must be an atheist in-joke.

According to this site, the Atheists strongly support the use of Reason and science above all.  Apparently they do not realize how fragile Reason is. In a reasoned argument, one unexpected new insight, and the whole edifice can collapse. That’s what keeps the blood pumping and the brain alive.  As for science: until a few years ago, dinosaurs dragged their tails on the ground. Now dinosaurs walk like birds, tails outstretched behind them. Reason and science are wonders of the human brain, but I sure wouldn’t limit myself to them.

In October, Hitchens wrote “Unanswerable Prayers” for Vanity Fair. What a cranky, wonderful article by a fundamentalist atheist. He had been diagnosed with esophagus cancer and he responds to people who pray for him with insightful distain. People of prayer can have our wits sharpened by reading it. It’s  good practice to learn from people who distain you.  God bless him. (Just kidding.)

 One belief (so to speak) of atheists caught my eye:  “…He [sic] must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it.”

Substitute “a turkey” for “life” in that sentence

 Yes, I’m making fun of an organization of people who don’t believe in something, though they all have different reasons for not believing in it. No, I’m not making fun of atheists. Atheism can be as intolerant as any religion.  Belief in God is not necessary to form a conscientious, caring person. We know that belief in God does not prevent hatred.  Without religion some people would find something else to hang their hatred on.

 As I read the website, I began to think I might be an atheist. “[An Atheist] accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men [sic] together to enjoy.” I’ve met very few religious people who would argue about that (though they may not preclude a more “heavenly” heaven). There is a debate called “Does God Exist?” That sounds interesting too, especially if the first order of business is defining the word “God.”

 In fact, I might organize a “What Does ‘God’ Mean?” convention. Only two groups of people would be turned away or constricted. The “God is Completely Unknowable” people might as well be atheists and would be directed to the other convention. People who are firm in their belief that every word in the Bible is literally, unassailably true would be limited to 15 minutes podium time. They are generally real conversation stoppers.  I doubt they’d come anyway since they already know the answer.

I’ll let a relative of mine from the Old Country finish this article.  She told me with pride that she didn’t believe in the Little People (Leprechauns). “They are there; I’ve seen them.  I just don’t believe in them.”